Gamera Team Flies High in Quest for AHS Sikorsky Prize, Featured on Cover of Baltimore Sun

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BALTIMORE, Md. -- The Gamera human-powered helicopter team, comprised of students from the University of Maryland's A. James Clark School of Engineering, conducted flight attempts on February 27 and 28 at the Baltimore Convention Center in strong pursuit of the elusive $250,000 American Helicopter Society (AHS) Sikorsky Prize. 
In the end, they came up just short.

In order to secure the prize, a feat that has been considered by many to be unwinnable, a human-powered flight must momentarily achieve a height of 3 meters (10 feet) during a flight that lasts at least 60 seconds, staying within the prescribed 10 square meter area. The Gamera team came close to these requirements multiple times with their flight attempts, which took place in an exhibit hall that was large enough to accommodate the Gamera II XR helicopter, a large aircraft measuring 115 feet in length with 85-foot rotors, and ultra light-weight at 90 lbs. The team achieved a 60-second flight, and did well with their hover capabilities, staying within the prescribed area. The requirement that proved most difficult was altitude -- the team was not able to reach the 10-foot minimum.

The Gamera team's flight attempts have run concurrently with AeroVelo, a team based in Toronto, Canada, that has also been in the hunt for the prize. 

Previously, the Gamera team, which is comprised of 51 undergraduate and graduate students, had set a world record for duration with their 65.1-second flight on August 28, 2012, which was certified by The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), also known as The World Air Sports Federation. During their attempts in August, the team was also able to achieve a height of 9.4 feet, just inches from the 10 feet AHS Sikorsky Prize requirement.

AHS International Executive Director Mike Hirschberg, Sikorsky Aircraft International Senior Engineer Ben Hein, and Judge and Board Member Kris Maynard of the National Aeronautic Association were present to see the Gamera team's flight attempts.

The team plans to regroup and continue their attempts at the prize in March.

AHS International initiated the Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter (HPH) Competition in 1980, initially with a prize of $20,000. After nearly 30 years without a successful design, AHS was grateful that Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. greatly increased the size of the award by pledging $250,000 for the first successful controlled flight of a human-powered helicopter that meets all of the requirements of AHS International's Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition. For more information about the AHS Sikorsky Prize, visit

Media Coverage:

Baltimore Sun: UMD students fly human-powered helicopter, try for $250,000 prize (Cover Photo)  

Wired: Human-Powered Helicopter Attempts Prize-Winning Flight Today

Washington Post:

NBC News: Human-powered helicopter closes on Sikorsky Prize

Sky News: Pedal-Power Helicopter Heads For $250k Prize


Published March 1, 2013